Hummel 'living a dream' in NBA

Boilermaker great Robbie Hummel returned to the state of Indiana, but this time as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

INDIANAPOLIS - Society cheers for guys like Robbie Hummel.

Kind. Articulate. Honest. Intelligent. Hard working. Pick an endearing descriptive term, and the former Purdue basketball standout probably fits it.

Now, after three knee surgeries, a season in Spain and a nervous 2012 NBA Draft night during which he was the 58th player selected in a 60-man draft, the pleasant 6-foot-8 forward is playing in the NBA, earning $490,180 this season as a Minnesota Timberwolves rookie.

Through 16 games, including Monday night's 98-84 loss to the red-hot Indiana Pacers in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the popular ex-Boilermaker is averaging 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds for an 8-8 team.

Not bad for a kid from Valparaiso who wondered if he ever would play again after suffering two torn anterior cruciate ligaments, first in 2010 in a game at Minnesota and then again later that fall during preseason workouts.

Now, life couldn't be better for Hummel.

"It really is like living a dream," Hummel said Monday night. "You look at where you wanted to be since you were a kid watching all these NBA games. To finally make it here has been pretty awesome. At the same time, I'm trying to stick, not just make it.

"I am trying to make a career of it. It's pretty cool to finally accomplish something you have wanted for so long."

While the NBA is the ultimate experience in basketball, there have been adjustments for Hummel.

"The game is different," Hummel said. "It's different from Europe, and it is different from college. It's almost like a different sport with defensive three seconds and some of all the different concepts. It's really different from the things I have been used to.

"But it has been fun to adjust, but at the same time, you are playing against the best players in the world. It is a pretty cool experience, that is for sure."

Timberwolves starting forward Corey Brewer, who played collegiately at Florida, likes what Hummel brings to this relatively young NBA roster.

"He is a shooter," Brewer said. "He is going to come in and make some shots. You have to respect Robbie. He is a guy who comes every day and plays hard. He works his butt off. You respect that. I followed him when he was in college, so I am happy for him.

"He is a rookie, but you can tell he plays like a guy who is older. In his four years of playing in college, he got good coaching. Then he went overseas, so it's like he has been a pro for a couple of years."

Minnesota is a member of the Western Conference's Northwest Division, along with Portland, Oklahoma City, Denver and Utah.

"It's a long season, and the travel is pretty incredible, especially for us being in Minnesota," Hummel said. "We're not really close to anybody that is in our division. We're close to Indianapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee, but we get to come to Indianapolis only one time.

"You think about going to Portland and Denver - a lot of Western Conference cities - and that's not close, so it is a big adjustment."

Hummel wants to be that Timberwolves' player who can come into a game, make some shots, play defense and blend well into the team concept. The coaching staff refers to Hummel as a glue guy who can help this team win.

Coach Rick Adelman said that when Hummel enters the game, rarely does he hurt the team or make a critical mistake.

That is comforting to Hummel, along with how familiar he is with the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. As a child, his family vacationed there often at a relative's lake cottage. At Purdue, a trip to play the Golden Gophers was one Hummel enjoyed until tearing the ACL in a February, 2010 victory there. In a way, he has returned to the scene of the crime, so to speak.

"There's no doubt there is some irony there when you look at what has happened to me in the Twin Cities," Hummel said. "I've gone up there since I was a little kid, and then to have my knee injury occur in (Williams Arena) at the University of Minnesota and then to be drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves, it's almost as if I have come full circle.

"It is amazing how coincidences sometimes happen, but it is pretty cool to look back on it all and to see where I am now. I really like the Twin Cities a lot, but I wish it was a little bit warmer. That is not going to change anytime soon. It is a great place to live, and the people are very nice."

Hummel's confidence level that he would earn an NBA roster spot rose during the summer when he played with the T'Wolves in Las Vegas, and then increased during training camp when he said he played very well.

"I think playing a season in Spain helped me a lot, too," Hummel said. "When you play over there, you face a lot of guys who have been NBA players. That was good for me basketball wise. Lots of guys have come over here to the NBA from Spain. It's a great league that helped me a lot.

"I don't really feel like a rookie other than I haven't been used to the travel. I am a 24-year-old rookie, but I don't really feel like a rookie."

Nor does Hummel act like one, which further explains why it is so easy to cheer for him to do well.

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